Fulfilling a Ruler's destiny

Photo gallery : Leader with a heart of gold


The nation will witness Selangor's new Ruler, its ninth Sultan crowned Saturday, according to traditional rites and customs of the state's Sultanate, one of Malaysia's oldest. Proclaimed Sultan of Selangor on Nov 22,2001, upon the demise of his father, then the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia, the Raja Muda Selangor Tengku Idris Shah became Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah. KEE HUA CHEE details the fascinating life of a man destines to be Sultan

AS A child, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah was aware he was fated to ascend the throne of Selangor. 

It was a task he considered an honour to reign over a population of some 4.2 million people. From young, the future sultan was acutely aware of his responsibilities as he was instilled the concept that his “job” would be a lifelong duty. Born to be Sultan, he knew the road that lay ahead. While other children could choose their career or vocation, his life was already mapped out for him. As a graduate, he could not even practise his profession since his full-time job would consume his entire waking hours as Crown Prince of Selangor.  

Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah on his way to open the Selangor State Assembly's Budget meeting last year.

Selangor’s new Sultan was born on Dec 24, 1945. His mother is Raja Saidatul Ihsan Tengku Badar Shah @ Raja Lat whose official title is now Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Bonda Raja Selangor. On Sept 3 1960, at age 15, His Royal Highness was proclaimed and gazetted as the Raja Muda of Selangor. On that historic occasion, his father presented him with a Cartier watch – a family tradition Sultan Sharafuddin is keeping as he appointed his 12-year-old son Tengku Amir as the new Raja Muda of Selangor in May last year. Ten years later, the then Tengku Idris Shah was officially installed as the 8th Raja Muda or Crown Prince of Selangor. Five years later, he went to Perth, Western Australia, to complete his secondary education at Hale School. He then went to Surrey, England, to further his education at Langhurst College where he studied for four years until 1968. 

Upon his return, he joined the Government Administrative Services where he was attached to the Selangor State Secretariat before moving to the District Office in Kuala Lumpur and the Police Department where he gained valuable first-hand experience at all levels of administration. 

That same year, he married Raja Zarina Raja Tan Sri Zainal. In 1969, the couple was blessed with their first child, Tengku Zerafina, who is presently working in London. In 1973, the royal couple had a second daughter, Tengku Zatashah who is also a working princess. She is currently working as a journalist in Malaysia. 

Tengku Idris and Raja Zarina divorced in 1986. In 1988, he married Nur Lisa Idris Abdullah, an American citizen. They are blessed with a son, Tengku Amir Shah, who is now the Raja Muda of Selangor, the same post held by his father for 41 years. In June 1997, the Raja Muda divorced Nur Lisa. 

On 24 April 1999, he was installed as Regent of Selangor when his father assumed office as the 11th Yang Di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia. On Nov 21, 2001, Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah passed away and Malaysia lost its King. Tengku Idris Shah was proclaimed the new Sultan of Selangor the next morning.Following royal custom, he had to add a new name to “Idris Shah”. “I selected 'Sharafuddin' because it is easy to pronounce and unlike some complicated Arabic names. 'Sharafuddin' also sounds rather similar to Salahuddin, my father's name and I especially like its meaning, which connotes 'religious enlightenment',” explains Sultan Sharafuddin during an audience with him recently. 

Sultan Sharafuddin's first royal award was bestowed on him by his father during the Selangor Sultan's 47th birthday. Tengku Idris Shah was 28 years when he received the D.K. (Darjah Kerabat Yang Amat Di-Hormati). The D.K. is the highest and most exclusive award in Malaysia, normally given by a reigning Sultan to a brother Ruler or immediate member of his family. In 1984, he was conferred the D.K. (II) by the Sultan of Terengganu. In 2001, when he became the Sultan of Selangor, he assumed the Seri Paduka Mahkota Selangor title upon his ascension. 

Last year, Sultan Sharafuddin was conferred five important titles. In the early part of the year, he was made Captain-in-Chief of The Royal Malaysian Navy holding the rank of Captain. 

This was followed by four royal titles, each carrying the rank of D.K. by the Sultans of Kelantan and Perak, Raja of Perlis and Yang Di-Pertuan Besar of Negri Sembilan. Sultan Sharafuddin is arguably Malaysia's best-known Sultan internationally due to his penchant for sporting activities. As a young man, he was already steeped in sports like football, tennis, badminton, hockey and swimming. It is his love for sailing and driving that has made him known in international sporting circles. 

Today, the Sultan of Selangor is the world's only reigning Ruler to have circumnavigated the world in a small, sailing boat and drove from Beijing to Paris. It is a record never attained before by a monarch and has made the people of Selangor and Malaysians in general extremely proud. 

The Selangor Sultan together With Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Ibni Al-Marhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail (centre) and Yang Di-Pertuan Besar Negeri Sembilan Tuanku Ja'afar Ibni Al-Marhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman during the Formula One race in Sepang last year.

“My ancestors were Bugis from the Moluccas islands and the sea is in my blood,” smiles Sultan Sharafuddin as he recalls tales of great adventures by his forebears. 

“I love the sea and everything connected with it – the sound of crashing waves, the cry of sea birds, the sun setting in the horizon and bathing the waters in bright colours and the feel of the sand on my feet. 

I feel soothed, relaxed and humbled by the greatness of God each time I sail my boat. His epic adventure started in 1995 when he sailed into the blue horizon aboard S.Y Jugra, which was not a luxury yacht but needed manpower to operate. He took 22 months to circumnavigate the globe and sailed an astonishing 53,300km. He returned a national hero in 1996. 

Now, due to his heavy state duties, he no longer indulges in his favourite hobby as often as he wished. “I cannot shirk my responsibilities to Selangor and my people who expect me to be at the helm always,” he notes. After all, being a Sultan is not only a lifelong job but also a 24-hour task. 

“The Government and court cannot waste their time worrying about my welfare and safety so I sold the Jugra. But not before sailing it to the Spice Islands (Moluccas) in 1998.“The Raja Muda is only 12 years old and I must be around for him. Already, I am so busy with work, I have limited time to spend with him. I make it a point as much as possible not to accept commitments during weekends. “Tengku Amir is reaching a critical age in his life as a pre-teen and I wish to be around to groom him as my successor. Now, I only co-own a small boat Evelyn, which is not an ocean-going boat, so I cannot sail far,” he said. 

Adventurous by nature, the Sultan also scaled Mount Kinabalu at 4,101m. 

Sultan Sharafuddin is also an ardent driver and motorcar fan. In 1986, he drove the Proton Saga, from Kota Kinabalu to Kuching, covering the 1,111km in two days. 

His most exciting drive packed with enough thrills and spills to last a lifetime was the epic Vintage Car Peking to Paris Motor Challenge in 1997, just a year after his triumphant return after 22 months at sea. 

Lesser mortals wondered about his astonishing appetite for hard adventure and tough living. He was already 52, yet was still at his peak of physical and mental health. He drove his 1932 Ford Model B, still in excellent running order.  

Although Sultan Sharafuddin has a busy schedule, he tries to make time for his son, the Raja Muda of Selangor Tengku Amir Shah.

His Royal Highness' fondness for football is seen in his constant support for Football Association of Selangor (FAS). In 1987, he was appointed Honorary Life President of the Football Association of Selangor. The next year, he became Chairman of the Semi-Pro Football Association.  

In 1998, he was appointed FAS president.A lasting contribution to sports is a sailing race that bears his name – the Raja Muda International Regatta. It has now become one of the most well-known and important regattas in the international calendar, a fact that has particularly pleased the Sultan.  

“When I launched the regatta in 1994, I did not expect it to last more than a few years,” beams Sultan Sharafuddin. 

“I participated in the Raja Muda International Regatta in 1994 and in 1996, sailing from Port Klang to Langkawi Island.”In 1973, he accepted the patron's post for the University of Malaya Medical Alumni Association. Since then, he has become Patron of 27 associations, organisations and clubs.  

Sultan Sharafuddin is also Fellow and Member of various important societies such as Philatelic Society of Malaysia, Rotary International, Scouts Association, Malaysian Institute of Maritime, Malaysian Institute of Directors and Chartered Institute of Transport.  

His keen interest in education and his insistence that tertiary education should be readily accessible to all Malaysians at affordable fees is seen in His Royal  

Highness' involvement in local universities.On May 25, 2000, His Royal Highness was proclaimed Pro-Cancelor of Universiti Teknoloji Mara by His Majesty The Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, effective until March 31, 2005. 

In appreciation of his many contributions to the betterment of the university, UiTM conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Public Administration to Sultan Sharafuddin in March 2001. 

Last year, again he was appointed Chancellor of Universiti Putra Malaysia by the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, effective until March 31, 2007. 

As Chairman of Galeri Shah Alam and Selangor Art Foundation, Sultan Sharafuddin is an avid collector of Malaysian paintings, sculptures and historic artefacts.  

“I make it a point to only collect paintings and artworks by Malaysian artists,” explains the Sultan.  

“Since I cannot collect works of art from across the world, it is only fair I should concentrate and support Malaysian talents like Ibrahim Hussein. Local artists are as gifted and creative as foreigners.'' Long live Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah of Selangor!

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